Ron Tyler’s new book Texas Lithographs tells the story of nineteenth-century Texas through images.
Lithographs allowed for the inexpensive reproduction of color illustrations before photography. As they rose in popularity, they transformed journalism and marketing, nurturing, for the first time, a global visual culture.
Texas was one of the great subjects of the lithography boom, and to celebrate this beautiful book, we’ve turned a few of the lithographs it features into free printable coloring pages. Each coloring page mentioned in the article is available for free as a printable download at the bottom of the page.
Color in Lithographs
Some lithographs were colored by hand, like coloring pages. Later, more sophisticated chromolithography added more color variety, but printing a chromolithograph was considerably more complicated than printing a lithograph.
First, a skilled colorist decided how, printing one color at a time, to achieve the final color combination. There wasn’t an agreed-upon method, but Ron Tyler’s research suggests that bronzing was done first, followed by blue, red, yellow, outline, and, perhaps, a final color. “For the most sophisticated images,” he writes, “lithographers might have used as many as twenty or thirty stones, each printing a different color or different area of the image. New technology was also involved, for most chromolithographs were printed on steam-powered presses.”
“Using Mules as a Conveyance“: An Unpopular Lithograph
The image below, Using Mules as a Conveyance, by an unknown artist, was included in the 1881 book A Description of Texas, Its Advantages and Resources, with Some Account of Their Development, Past, Present and Future. The book was better known as “Governor Roberts’ Texas,” and was essentially a guide for newcomers to Texas. However, people hated the book’s lithographs.
Why? In the first place, with mountains in the background, this scene seems to have been created by someone unfamiliar with Texas geography. Secondly, the style is more appropriate for a children’s book or cigar-box lid than for a nonfiction book of this kind.
Upon the book’s publication, the Gainesville Register said: “The illustrations are simply abominable, both in design and execution.” Even so, we still think Using Mules as a Conveyance makes for a fun coloring page.
A Cabbage Head
The next image, A Cabbage Head, was a trading card and a chromolithograph approximately 5 × 3 inches in size. Manufacturers sometimes included trading cards like these with products as a form of advertising. They encouraged customers to collect whole sets. We don’t have the full set, but why not color in this surreal, somewhat grizzled-looking little cabbage boy and turn his frown upside-down?
Artists created many images of the Alamo during the nineteenth century, as drawings, watercolors, lithographs, and photographs. The image of the Alamo below is a very sophisticated lithograph. Printed by the firm of Louis Glaser in Germany, this image appeared in a souvenir book advertising the city to visitors and tourists.
Although it looks like a photograph, the creator likely took artistic liberties, removing details or adding figures to make the image prettier. Lithographs like this one were sharper than photos taken by cameras until the technology for the latter became more sophisticated. How lifelike can you make your coloring page look?
Galveston was the commercial center of Texas during most of the nineteenth century. This lithograph is an artist’s copy of the ornamental title to Camille Drie’s Bird’s Eye View of the City of Galveston. At the time, Galveston was small but had ambitions to grow. Lithographs were one way of attracting new residents. This piece of art was commissioned by the city government to announce Galveston to the world. Evidently, the announcement worked!
Download these Free Printable Coloring Pages
Want to color your own Texas lithographs? You can download and print free lithograph-inspired coloring pages below! They’re perfect for adults, older kids, and preschoolers alike, so let your creativity flow and make some art.
Additionally, if you are interested in more stories behind lithographs of iconic Texas sites, animals, and more, order your copy of Texas Lithographs today!